Shooting from the lip
Looking back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports
When are teams going to learn? The Jacksonville Jaguars fell into the same trap that every other team that loses to New England has fallen into. They came out all gutsy and carefree, went for it on fourth-and-1 at midfield on the first drive, threw the ball downfield often and threw caution to the wind. And for much of the game hung with the Patriots. Then, the deeper the game went, the more conservative they became. And that’s when the Pats kill you.
If you want to beat the Patriots, you have to match them score for score. Forget field goals. Forget punting on fourth-and-anything near midfield. You have to score. You have to score touchdowns.
Defensively, you can't sit back like the Jags did. You have to gamble. Try all-out blitzes. Jump into patterns. Because if you don't do those things, the Patriots are going to score anyway. Every team that has stayed in games with the Patriots (Eagles, Ravens, Giants, Jaguars) played recklessly for much of the game and gave itself a chance. It lost that chance when it started acting as if it were playing a normal team and turned traditional. The Patriots don't play scared. Their opponents can't, either. It's the only chance, and maybe even that isn’t enough.
Who knows which part of Kelly Tilghman's brain short-circuited on the Jan. 4 telecast when the Golf Channel host said that the rest of the PGA players should get Tiger Woods and "lynch him in a back alley?'' Tilghman was simply trying to make a joke that the only way the rest of the PGA could catch up to Tiger was to remove him from the equation. If she had said "beat him up in a back alley,'' we wouldn't have heard a word about this and she wouldn't have been suspended for two weeks.
Sometimes we all overreact to such things, but, in this case, there was no overreaction. Using the word "lynch'' was inexcusable. Anyone in this country should know exactly what that word represents, especially someone who is 38 years old and was smart enough to go to Duke.
Misleading number of the day
NHL broadcasts on Versus are up 32 percent from the same time last year. And the ratings these days are pretty close to the numbers ESPN2 was getting in 2003-04. In fact, Versus is getting about 261,406 viewers per telecast compared with about 209,000 that ESPN2 averaged for 2003-04. But here's the rest of the story: ESPN2 blacked out games in local markets. Versus doesn't. So the numbers aren't all that comparable. Versus does a nice job, and you can't deny the viewership is growing. But the NHL needs to be on ESPN to start making more of an impact in this country.
CBS NFL Today pregame analyst Dan Marino, talking about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady: "The Jacksonville defense didn't know whether to sack him or kiss him.''
Best hockey player of the weekend
So the Lightning's Brad Richards snapped his 12-game goal-less streak with two goals Saturday against Florida. And now he has 13 goals and 25 assists in 45 games. Frankly, it's surprising he is averaging nearly a point a game considering whom he has been playing with. While Vinny Lecavalier is on a line with Marty St. Louis and Vinny Prospal, Richards is playing on lines with a bunch of grinders. They all work hard. They're honest players. But they don't remind anyone of Jari Kurri or Mike Bossy. Really, who is the best player he has played with — Jan Hlavac? Sorry, but no wonder Richards went 12 games without a goal.
The two most entertaining sporting events on television over the weekend weren't even live events.
NBC showed On the Brink, a 90-minute show hosted by Jimmy Roberts about the 1,100 players entering a three-stage event to get their PGA Tour card. The show went over the final stage — a nerve-racking, six-day tournament with only 25 emerging with their tour membership. It was compelling stuff with a special emphasis on former Gators All-America golfer Matt Every, who came up just short of qualifying.
Meantime, Versus showed the 2007 XTERRA USA Championships, the most extreme of triathlons. It's a 1,500-meter swim in 58-degree Lake Tahoe, followed by a 30-kilometer mountain bike ride (18.6 miles) and a 13-kilometer trail run (8.1 miles). Again, Versus went the way of many networks by boiling down a full-day event into a crisp and interesting 60-minute show.
Most surprising revelation
Hockey legend Scotty Bowman said over the weekend on Hockey Night in Canada that he was prepared to leave his role as a consultant with the Red Wings before the season to take over the Maple Leafs as a director of hockey operations. A divided ownership board in Toronto decided to stick with its current setup, but if the Leafs continue to free-fall, don't be surprised if Toronto does make another run at Bowman, who, by the way, lives in Sarasota and attends just about every Lightning game.
Anyone catch CBS's Gus Johnson calling Kentucky's double-OT victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday? Johnson was so excited and so loud I thought I'd fallen asleep for three months and woke up during the Final Four. Gus, it's a regular-season game. In January. Easy, buddy. Easy.
Story of the month
The Roger Clemens did-he-or-didn't-he steroid story continues to dominate headlines, and we're no closer to knowing who is telling the truth and who isn't. And you have to wonder if we ever will. But Detroit Free-Press columnist Mitch Albom isn't necessarily believing Clemens just because Clemens swears he never took performance-enhancing drugs.
"There's one lesson here from all the steroid mess that is very, very clear,'' Albom said on Sunday's Sports Reporters on ESPN. "These athletes will lie to the media, without conscience … to their teammates, without conscience … to the managers, without conscience … to the commissioners, without conscience.''
He's right. Just think about these two words: Marion Jones.
Most surprising stat
Do you realize the Cowboys haven't a playoff game since 1996? Twenty-four franchises have won at least one playoff game since then.
Fox's Joe Buck said something none of us would've dreamed at any point this season: "There is a Manning in a championship game next weekend, and it's not Peyton.''
Three things that popped into my head over the weekend
1. Unless you're from Wisconsin and wear a Cheesehead on a regular basis, you're lying if you said you had the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
2. Give credit to the Chargers, but the only team that had a chance — and it wasn't even a great chance — to beat the Patriots was the Colts. The Patriots are not going to lose.
3. Maybe it is all Jessica Simpson's fault.